The environment had a significant impact on my life – Shofu Koyama

shofu koyama 1 Arts

I had an opportunity to talk to a calligraphy artist, Shofu Koyama. I asked why she decided to pursue the path and where her passion came from.  

– To become a calligraphy artist, was it your childhood dream?


– Haven’t you been learning calligraphy for a long time?

K:No. I’ve tried calligraphy when I was in second grade, but that was it. Till I happened to learn about design calligraphy, I didn’t do anything at all. I entered the design calligraphy world because of my work. As a package designer, I often asked to use calligraphy. I could ask others when I was working at the company. After becoming a freelancer, I started thinking it’s better to do it by myself. 

Maybe it was about 12 – 13 years ago. I was thinking of learning design calligraphy. At the time, I met Mr. Hiramatsu, a design calligraphy artist.  

– So, your life didn’t cross the path with calligraphy till then. 

K:Not at all.

– Are design calligraphy and original calligraphy different?

K:Yes. Package designing and ads use design calligraphy, which is a more decorative style.

– So you started learning design calligraphy, but at the same time, did you start learning traditional Japanese writing?

K:Just design calligraphy. After seven years of practicing design calligraphy, I felt I couldn’t get any better. I need to practice the basics of calligraphy (traditional Japanese writing) if I want to get better. I checked through many different classes and visited an exhibition of Mr. Bokuden, who is a calligrapher. He teaches calligraphy as well, and I saw his students’ works. They were fascinating. I went to have a look at his class and decided to learn calligraphy from Mr. Bokuden. 

It was exactly five years ago. 

At first, I didn’t even know how to hold and handle the brush. I started from scratch, and it was fascinating.

You need three conditions to follow your path.

– What made you decide to go for the calligraphy world?

K:I think everybody has their path and role and follows their path naturally. To open the gate to the way, we all need three conditions; attributes, strong will, and environments. When we have all the requirements, the path appears in front of us as if someone is telling us to follow it.

I started learning at Mr. Bokuden’s when I turned 40. At the age of 42, I met all of my three conditions, and I thought, “I’m going to be a calligrapher. No, I should be a calligrapher.”. 

At first, it was the environment. 

My family came first when I was married, but I got divorced, and it changed.  I could make a decision just for myself. Then, Mr. Hiramatsu asked me to do the exhibition with him. It was my first time renting the space and do it. I didn’t have a piece I could show. However, I had plenty of time to prepare for the exhibition because I lost my main design work at the time. 

Next, attributes came to me.

I took part in the exhibition in Tokyo for the first time and received an encouragement award. Receiving a prize among many artworks encouraged me a lot. 

Then, I was willing to spend more time on calligraphy. 

I didn’t have a stable income, so it was not easy. But at the same time, I realized I was willing to make a living on calligraphy. The way of looking at the advertisement and signs in the street changed. I was following calligraphy with my eyes and not design. I went to Mr. Bokuden’s to learn when I got a chance. Hours of practice didn’t make me tired. I was enjoying a lot. I felt all my senses were going toward calligraphy.

The environment and receiving the award encouraged me to follow my want. I was more than sure that the gate to my path got open. So, I decided to pursue a career to be a calligrapher. 

My works represent my love.

– What motivates you to create?

K: After I decided to be a calligrapher, I kept thinking about my role in this world.  I felt like I shouldn’t do it for my self-satisfaction. When I found the reason to create my art, I could do it with real motivation.  My conclusion required a great deal of soul-searching and thinking. 

“My works represent my love. If I can make people feel better with my work, that’s my reason to keep creating my pieces. “

I don’t like to see my loved ones having a suffering or saddening experience since before. I want them to feel better, but there is not much I can do. If I could send them courage, relieve their pain, and give some energy through my works, that’s the reason to create my pieces. I think my work can take part to empathize and encourage others. On top of that, I can inspire people I’ve never met with my pieces if my pieces become known to the world.

If I put my theme of work in a word, it will be “live.”.  I put my love, energy, and a message in my pieces, “ Let’s live together.” From now on, I will keep telling the world, “You are not alone. Let’s live our life to the fullest.”; because I think that’s my role. 

At last…

Kindness and strength co-exist in her artworks. When I visited her exhibition for the first time, I got overwhelmed with power. I had seen other Japanese ink paintings before, but they were different from what I had seen.  I thought, “How much energy did she put into one piece?”

After interviewing her, I now know why her artworks have so much power. Her pieces are full of love and hope. I believe her work is reaching other’s hearts somewhere today to tell, “Let’s live. You are not alone.”